A new strategy for BHS business in the UAE

Rupkatha Bhowmick

Abu Dhabi-based retail group, Liwa Trading Enterprises holds the distribution rights for British brand BHS (British Home Stores) in the UAE. The brand shut down in the home market. First, the stores shut down, followed by the online operations. “The online operations have been recently revived possibly with a new partner,” states Mark Tesseyman, CEO of Liwa Trading Enterprise. And the brand is, reportedly, preparing to make a comeback on the UK high street, with limited presence to begin with.

Commenting on the BHS’ presence in the UAE, Tesseyman says, “If the brand entity has a registration in the region and if the name is retained right, you can do something with the brand. We still have a relationship with BHS, as they are trading in a small way. The brand is trading in Qatar too with Al Mana Group. They have a vertical buying team based in London, trying to expand the business globally.”

In the UAE, Liwa owns the registered trading entity, which enables them to fill in the BHS stores with their labels and products. “But our preferred approach is to work with our partners,” Tesseyman points out, “and that’s what we have done in the case of BHS. There was a rough period when the supply of stock was not available to us, and no one knew which direction the brand headed. We had to think of ways to avoid a negative impact on our profitability and turnover. We decided to go out and buy products to fill up the BHS stores. We did some deals with third-party brands – such as Warner and Disney – and developed our label for womenswear to protect our losses. We created a concession-like space within the BHS stores, stocking our brands in them.”

There were 16 BHS stores, which is now down to three in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. “Some of those stores have been replaced by new brands that we have signed up, like Italian brand OVS in three locations in Abu Dhabi. We also plan to test new brands using the three existing BHS stores. That is our strategy for the moment. Franchise partnerships are linear. If they face administrative and supply issues, the licensee suffers badly. If your host partner catches a cold, you get flu,” Tesseyman concludes.